Anorexia and bulimia are the most common eating disorders. These are two separate diseases with many similarities, but also many differences. What they have in common is that each of them requires specialized treatment. Learn the similarities and differences between anorexia and bulimia!
Anorexia - what is it?
Anorexia (anorexia nervosa) consists of taking many different deliberate actions that lead to weight loss and/or maintaining a low body weight. Body weight with anorexia is at least 15% below the expected standard for age and height, or BMI (body mass index) is equal to or falls below 17.5. A patient with anorexia has a distorted perception of his own body image, he also has metabolic, somatic or neuroendocrine disorders.
What is bulimia?
Bulimia (bulimia nervosa) consists in focusing life around food, with simultaneous control of body weight. Bulimia is characterized by uncontrollable attacks of gluttony, after which the patient undertakes a number of activities to “counteract the consequences” of what he considers to be excessive amounts of food.
Anorexia and bulimia - similarities
The main cause of the problem in both anorexia and bulimia is the belief that the body weight is too much, which leads to taking action to help lose “extra” pounds. Patients in both cases have the same goal, but they pursue it in a slightly different way. Anorexia and bulimia are closely related, because anorexia has a bulimic subtype, in which patients exhibit symptoms typical of bulimics.
Anorexia and bulimia - differences
In order to achieve the desired weight, a person suffering from anorexia avoids eating, while a person suffering from bulimia overeats, and then takes compensatory actions aimed at “preventing fattening effects” (e.g. vomiting).
Other differences between anorexia and bulimia include:
- basic symptoms – with anorexia there is a drastic reduction of caloric intake, while with bulimia there are regular episodes of uncontrolled overeating;
- control over the eating process – the anorexic or anorexic obsessively controls the weight and amount of calories consumed, while the bulimic or bulimic completely loses control over the eating process;
- weight – in the course of anorexia, the weight systematically decreases and underweight is noticeable, while in the course of bulimia, although there are fluctuations in weight, the weight is usually normal;
- personality traits – a person suffering from anorexia has perfectionist traits and feels the need for constant control, while a person suffering from bulimia is impulsive and emotionally unstable.
Making the right diagnosis requires a visit to a specialist and diagnostics.
Can anorexia turn into bulimia and vice versa?
Being diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia does not mean that another problem cannot occur. In the course of both disorders, patients do not accept themselves, have a distorted body image, low self-esteem and an unhealthy relationship with food. Anorexia can turn into bulimia, or bulimia can turn into anorexia. Moreover, the development of the second disorder may occur when the patient begins to recover from the former.
It was also mentioned above that there is even a type of anorexia called anorexia bulimia, which is very similar to bulimia. The boundaries between these disorders in many cases are therefore not so clear.
How is eating disorder treated?
Every eating disorder requires treatment, but the approach to treatment may vary slightly depending on the type of disorder.
Anorexia should be treated comprehensively and long-term, taking into account the psychological, psychiatric and somatic aspects associated with this disorder. Psychoeducation and psychotherapy play a major role here. In more severe cases of anorexia, behavioral eating training is used in a hospital setting.
Medical treatment in the case of bulimia, as in the case of anorexia, should be comprehensive and include psychoeducation, psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.
This means that specialists such as a psychologist, psychotherapist and dietician play a key role in the treatment of eating disorders. Therefore, it is to them that you should turn to for help, wanting to deal with the disease.
- Borowiecka-Kluza J., Zaburzenia odżywiania (anoreksja i bulimia), Medycyna praktyczna dla pacjentów, 2015.